Strong stuff but this country badly needs more people like John Crown, people who are not afraid to speak out, people who are willing to challenge the corrupt and incompetent. The article is worth reproducing in full.
All this spin is making me feel sick
HSE management is so bad, even celebrities could do a better job, writes John Crown
The official reaction of the health bureaucracy to the Sunday Independent column last week about budget cuts in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, Dublin, demonstrated the primacy of spin over substance in the running of the health service.
The column was written in response to the extraordinary and brazenly untrue statement by Minister for Health Mary Harney to the Dail, that ward and theatre closures, lengthening waiting lists and service deficiencies in Our Lady’s (which had incredibly lived and worked within its meagre budget in 2008) had not been caused by the savage four per cent funding cut that she and her officials had inflicted on that fine institution for 2009, but were due to it being overstaffed.
In terms of defences it ranked right up there with Sixties’ record producer and now convicted murderer, Phil Spector’s recent testimony at his trial, that his victim had taken his gun from his hand and shot herself, or perhaps with a Holocaust-denying Nazi stating that the victims of the greatest crime in history had, in fact, committed mass suicide.
The assertion that Our Lady’s Hospital is overstaffed is so utterly ludicrous that it can have only one of two explanations: wilful disinformation on her part or a woefully unacceptable level of ministerial ignorance about the reality of professional staffing levels in Crumlin and other Irish hospitals.
I will leave the reader to decide for themselves which of the two is more plausible.
In my column, I drew some comparisons with Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH), a similarly sized institution to Crumlin, but with a substantially larger staff. BCH has 200 full-time consultants, Crumlin has 60. One of the minister’s spin doctors, Derek Cunningham, issued a masterfully spun statement on her behalf which completely avoided the cutbacks, and instead drew inappropriate comparisons between BCH and the totality of paediatric care in Ireland, ignoring the fact that in the English midlands alone, there are 12 other paediatric units.
Mr. Cunningham, please advise your minister how to spin her way out of these facts. We have five paediatric general surgeons in the Republic, Belfast has six. Scotland, with a slightly larger population than Ireland, has 22.
Please note that the UK is a low enough standard of comparison. Denver Children’s Hospital, again about the same size, has 800 consultant-level doctors. UK health administrators love Ireland; we keep them out of last place on all international medical staffing comparisons.
Another spun statement emerged that no emergency surgery was delayed in Crumlin. Well, children who need surgery to correct spinal deformity are perhaps not “emergencies”, but research in Crumlin and elsewhere shows that affected children who have surgery delayed while childhood growth is taking place have less successful outcomes than those who are treated quickly.
The Beacon Hospital in Sandyford, Dublin, officially opened by Ms Harney, is now developing a private paediatric surgery unit. So much for concentration of resources in centres of excellence.
In the same week that the Crumlin cutbacks became an issue of public concern, I was approached by yet another HSE spin doctor (and former Beacon employee) to ask if I would like to meet the senior HSE management, an invitation which had previously been extended to and accepted by Gerald Kean, the successful solicitor and star of Celebrity Bainisteoir who had made a number of thoughtful, insightful and critical public analyses about the management structures of the HSE.
Please note, my invitation, like Mr. Kean’s, came from a spin doctor. So, I have a better idea. Let’s turn the running of the health service over to celebrities altogether. We could call the programme Celebrity Dochtuir.
Paris Hilton, who once famously stated that she always wants to turn left to first class when she boards a plane, could be put in charge of co-location, and the Pussycat Dolls each made HSE regional directors.
They couldn’t do a much worse job than the current leadership structure.
Professor John Crown is a consultant oncologist